What nurses need to know about tick-borne encephalitis virus

Our podcast guest explains signs and symptoms of the virus, known as TBEV, that nurses should look out for and the importance of public health advice

Picture of a tick on a blade of grass held between someone's thumb and forefinger

What do nurses need to know about tick-borne encephalitis virus (TBEV), which recently arrived in the UK?

Spread by the bite of an infected tick, TBEV can lead to a spectrum of illness including meningitis and encephalitis (swelling of the brain).

The latest episode of the Nursing Standard podcast examines the virus, of which there have been three probable cases in the UK since 2019. Its emergence has led the UK Health Security Agency to recommend a change to testing to improve detection.

Sylviane Defres, a consultant in infectious diseases at Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and a senior clinical lecturer at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, shares her expertise with podcast listeners.

Dr Defres tells the interviewer, journalist Erin Dean, about the signs and symptoms nurses should be looking out for and how the illness presents and develops.

They discuss the areas that are higher risk in the UK, with more infected ticks, and what is known about the spread of the virus in the UK.

A woodland scene with a warning notice bearing the image of a tick

Importance of public health advice from nurses and the availability of a vaccine

The importance of public health advice from nurses to protect people from being bitten by ticks and the availability of a vaccine is also covered.

Dr Defres also shares her top three tips for nurses on TBEV:

  • Be aware of the importance of advice on avoiding tick bites, as this can protect from TBEV and other tick-borne illness.
  • Be vigilant and consider the possibility of TBEV if seeing a patient with relevant symptoms. Ask them if they have been outside in grassy areas working or enjoying the countryside.
  • Refer on and seek specialist advice when a patient has possible symptoms that cause concern, especially neurological ones. Patients with neurological signs should be referred to hospital as an emergency.
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